New experiments with sand

Today is one of those days where I have felt as though it will be impossible to get everything I want to get done, done.

But one of the main things I wanted to try was some new techniques with sand and sea water. The weather is pretty atrocious here today, with grey skies and mizzle (a Cornish thing) meaning it’s time for longish cyanotype exposure.

Using my current favourite Bockingford watercolour paper (it’s vegan-friendly; I’m not a vegan but still like to think my work is kind to animals as well as the environment), I coated a number of sheets with fresh cyanotype solution.

Knowing I may not make it to the beach today, I had already collected some sea water and had bought some children’s play sand with which to make some experiments.

I know from previous work that sand will ‘bleach’ the cyanotype somewhat, as will sea water. This means you can achieve quite interesting results.

I have also been trying to simulate the motion of the waves hitting the shore and moving the sand.

The results are as follows:


It’s fascinating to see how unpredictable the outcome can be. The ‘brown’ cyanotype are both ones that were submerged for part of the process either in sand or by a sand/seawater mix.

Making the imprint in cahoots with nature but through the impact of my own hand and decisions truly reflects how I believe humans impact on the world around them. I do not control the final look of this artwork, but we can control how we manage the sand industry.

This way of working is both carefree and careful; there is an organic sense to how it is created; UV hits a light-sensitive solution (man-made) on water colour paper (man-made from nature) to leave a trace that isn’t washed away with water (in this case, sea water).

It symbolises the inter-dependency between human and nature; that we are not separate from but part of the wider world we exist in.

Many people who use the cyanotype process will purposefully tone their blue images to brown; tea is great for this. I have not been overly keen on toning on purpose but seeing the effect the sand and seawater has on the cyanotype solution is intriguing.

More experimentation to follow, including working out a means of recreating the images in glass.